Saturday, October 20, 2018

More Saturday Male Beauty

Don't Fall for GOP Claims on Protections for Preexisting Conditions

At times I am amazed at how stupid Republicans think the public is when it comes to believing their lies.  True. with Trump supporters, especially evangelical Christians who tend to be the least educated segment of society, there is a high level of stupidity, some fueled by intellectual laziness and some spurred by racism to which the GOP has played ever since the rise of Richard Nixon's "southern strategy."  But when it comes to health care - especially maintaining protections for preexisting conditions - anyone paying any attention can see that the rhetoric that one is hearing from Republican congressional candidates is 180 degrees the opposite of the votes and actions over the last two years.  For example, how can one be a champion of protecting preexisting conditions (as claimed by Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley who hopes to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill) while in charge of a state filed lawsuit seeking to end those very protections.  Locally, the same holds true for Rep. Scott Taylor who is singing one line now, but voted very differently.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at GOP lies which are in high gear as election day approaches.  Here are excerpts:
What began over the summer as a halfhearted attempt by Republicans to push back against Democratic attacks on the issue of health care has exploded into a full-throated reversal of their positions, particularly on protections for sick Americans.
In Missouri, Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley has been hammered by the woman he hopes to unseat, Democrat Claire McCaskill, for being among the attorneys general who have asked a federal court to render unconstitutional the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which compelled insurance companies to cover those with preexisting conditions.
“You don’t go to court and get rid of important protections when there is no backup, when people will be in a free fall,” McCaskill said in a debate Thursday night.
In Texas, where he is trying to beat back a well-financed challenge by Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Ted Cruz said in a debate Tuesday that he would “protect preexisting conditions.” Cruz forced a government shutdown in 2013 over his effort to repeal Obamacare. In a House race in California, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is, like Hawley, using his child’s illness to attest to his embrace of protections for preexisting conditions, even though he repeatedly voted to quash the Obamacare bill that first secured them.
Democrats and health-care specialists say that the proposals being put forward by Republicans contain exemptions that mean the sick would not be fully protected or would be charged exorbitant rates for coverage, as they were before the ACA became law.
Still, the sudden scramble by Republicans underscores the speed with which voters have also reversed themselves on the most popular provisions of the act, even as Republicans worked relentlessly to repeal them. It also raises a political irony: The same issue that gave birth to the tea party and propelled Republicans to power in the 2010 midterm elections could cost them dearly eight years later.
Republicans appeared to have been caught flat-footed about the change in voter opinion about insurance coverage, which has been cited by voters in multiple polls this year as the issue they care most about.
[A]s the GOP shifted its focus to tax cuts — which have not gained traction among voters — Democrats built an entire midterm campaign strategy around preserving the law’s most popular provision.
The actions of Republicans, including the president, before this election year have not matched their rhetoric over the past few weeks.  For more than eight years, their greatest and most unifying party rallying cry has been repealing Obamacare.
Trump also has bragged repeatedly about his administration’s many steps to undermine the law and water down protections, even as his administration has refused to defend any part of the law against the lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general. “I think the big issue is the brazenness [with] which this mantle is being put on to say this is something they’ve always supported,” said Sabrina Corlette, professor of health policy at Georgetown University.  Most health-policy experts say the Republican position is contradictory because without a replacement plan in place, people with past or existing illnesses would lose the protections they have now.
“The irony is that what allowed the House to pass [the repeal bill] was a proposal to weaken protections for preexisting conditions. This was not an obscure part of the debate,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you care about health care coverage - and Social Security and Medicare - the only option is to vote Democrat on November 6, 2018.  Do not fall for the GOP lies.  

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

A Defector From Conservatism's Take on Trump’s Rise

Perhaps being gay helped push me to be ahead of the curve in leaving the Republican Party. Once the Party began to embrace out right lying - something that in my view directly correlates to the rise of Christofascists in both the Party base and local committees - as what I like to think as a moral person I felt I had two choices: leave and fight against lies and untruths or stay and become part of the problem and complicit in the wrongful and immoral behavior. That many of the lies and hatred being ginned up for political expediency certainly made the decision to leave the GOP easier for me.  Others, however, chose to remain in the GOP and, sadly, some are happily drinking the "Kool-Aid" and busily disseminating right wing trash and lies - two "friends" on Facebook embody the phenomenon.  Then there is a third group that remained in the GOP until the rise of Trump at which time they could no longer countenance the Party's rank racism, embrace of ignorance, homophobia and desire to brutalize the majority while showering tax breaks and riches on the wealthy.  Some of the more notable of  these include Joe Scarborough, David Frum, Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Sullivan, and Max Boot.  In a piece in New York Magazine, Boot's ultimate defection from the GOP as laid out in his book The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.   Here are article highlights that lay out why the rise of Trump should have been the breaking point for thinking, moral conservatives:
When Max Boot was a young conservative apparatchik on the make, the key moment in his career occurred when he got a meeting with Robert Bartley, editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, one of the movement’s most prestigious and influential organs. To Boot’s surprise, Bartley offered him a job as economics editorialist. The prospect “horrified” him, he writes in his new memoir and critique, The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right, because he “had never taken a class in the subject and had no interest in it.” Boot later learned that Bartley sought out conservatives unfamiliar with economics for such jobs. “He did not want to hire an economist because most professional economists disdained supply-side economics,” which is to say, an inability to see through the pseudo-economic nonsense was a cherished attribute. 
[T]he minute he discovered that the economics line for the conservative movement was being set by an institution so hostile to rigorous thinking that it treated a lack of qualifications as a qualification, Boot probably should have rethought his career choices. Instead, he accepted a different job (op-ed editor) from Bartley. And he was on his way, moving through columnist spots and jobs as speechwriter or policy adviser to Republican presidential candidates like John McCain and Marco Rubio.
It came to a halt with the rise of Donald Trump. Boot, like most conservative intellectuals, reacted with incredulous disdain when a demagogic reality-television performer registered at the top of opinion polls in 2015. Most of those conservatives eventually reconciled themselves to Trump, either after Trump had sewn up the nomination, following his election, or after one of his many partisan skirmishes, at which point they could declare that the liberals had “forced” them to Trump’s side by criticizing Trump too harshly, opposing Brett Kavanaugh, or some other offense. Boot did not. Instead, he has written one of the most impressive and unflinching diagnoses of the pathologies in Republican politics that led to Trump’s rise.
Boot is hardly a surprising candidate for ideological defection. Having immigrated to the United States as a child from the Soviet Union, he gravitated toward the more stridently hawkish Republican Party, as many refugees from communist countries did. He never surrendered either his sense of outsiderness (having had to learn English and assimilate to strange American culture) or his intense pro-American idealism.
Of all the intellectual tribes of the right, neoconservatives (like Boot) mounted the deepest and longest resistance to Trump.  The core neocon worldview is a moralistic vision in America as a beacon of democracy and staunch foe of dictatorships (sometimes, as the Bush administration illustrated, to the point of delusion.)
[W]hat makes Boot’s argument admirable is that he doesn’t simply follow his ideology in a mechanical fashion. Instead he treats the rise of Trump with the seriousness an event of such magnitude demands. If you discovered your best friend was working on a plan to kill hundreds of people in a terrorist attack, you wouldn’t simply condemn his plan while continuing to appreciate his non-terrorist qualities. You would question your entire relationship and what it is about this person you missed in the first place. Likewise, when your political party has elected an ignorant, viciously bigoted, compulsively lying authoritarian crook as president, you need to raise fundamental assumptions about that party’s makeup, rather than treat it as an unfortunate turn of events one must muddle through.
 He describes his rise within the movement as “a process of indoctrination — largely self-indoctrination, I should add — that took decades and that I am only now escaping.” Boot recounts the social pressures to toe the party line, and the rewards (career advancement, lavish parties) that came with faithful adherence. At one point he commissioned an op-ed criticizing supply-side economics by Paul Krugman, who was not yet a New York Times columnist but was a famous economist with a punchy prose style. Bartley not only killed the op-ed but also came close to firing Boot for his apostasy.
Boot recounts briefing Sarah Palin, in his capacity as a McCain 2008 campaign adviser. (Unsurprisingly, he “found her to be nonresponsive and uninterested in foreign policy issues.”) After he began criticizing Trump, Boot describes the president of a conservative think tank expressing private agreement, but admitting he could not say so publicly for fear of offending his board of directors. When a friend got an appointment in the administration, she crossed Boot off the guest list for a party lest she be associated with a turncoat.
[T]the truly radical act in The Corrosion of Conservatism is its clear-eyed excavation of the movement’s history. The right has spent decades regurgitating a potted version of their own history that is so selective and sanitized that it amounts to an upside-down version of reality.
Boot acknowledges that he, too, subscribed to this myth. But revisiting that past, he discovers something very familiar. Conservatism trafficked all along in anti-intellectualism, bigotry, ideological radicalism, and loopy conspiracy theories. The conservative movement was a revolt against the moderation of mainstream Republicans like Dwight Eisenhower while fiercely defending the vicious lies of Joe McCarthy. Buckley renounced the president of the John Birch Society while continuing to endorse the organization itself, which was a large and powerful constituency. While most mainstream Republicans at the time supported civil rights, conservatives opposed those mainstream leaders for that very reason. Conservatives understood very clearly at the time that their project of turning the Republican Party into a vehicle for conservatism required prying millions of white segregationists from the Democratic Party.
Boot is not so reductive as to depict Trump as the inevitable historical consequence of conservatism’s historical arc. He is able to acknowledge that Trump is both a freakish outlier and an authentic outgrowth of conservatism. The movement had cultivated an atmosphere congenial to his bigoted demagoguery, and a freakishly dangerous figure walked through the door conservatism had opened for him.
But it is hard to see any choice between Boot’s radical surgery, which will require ripping the party’s conservative dogma out by the roots, and disaster for the brand of center-right values he espouses. The disaster may take the form of Trump and his party continuing their lurch into authoritarianism, which increasingly offers the only avenue for imposing unpopular policies on taxes, spending, and regulation demanded by its plutocratic base. Or it may involve the Republican Party discrediting itself irrevocably, as polarization allows Democrats to move farther and farther left without losing the loyalty of a base that will never forgive the party of Trump. A disaffected foot soldier from the conservative movement can now clearly see that the party’s salvation lies in prying it free of conservative control.
What upsets me the most about "friends" who have drunk the Trump/GOP Kool-Aid is that the have chosen to embrace immorality and the deliberate harm to and demonizing of others.   This is not mere a difference in political views, rather it goes to morality and decency themselves. In my view, one can no longer claim to be moral and decent yet support today;s Republican Party.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Democrats Seem Set to Equal or Exceed Republicans in Turnout

One of the most maddening things to me is the fact that Millennials and minority voters - those most likely to be harmed by the Trump/Pence/GOP agenda in the long term - do not vote and, as a result, contribute to self-harm.   Voting may not halt the regressive, racist GOP agenda, but not voting definitely furthers the agenda that seeks to take from the poor and give to the rich and restore white/Christofascist privilege not seen in decades (indeed, they Jim Crow laws would be restored if the federal courts would allow it - one reason Trump is packing the courts with reactionaries).  Polls indicate that Democrats may be poised to vote in record numbers for a midterm election, but Millennial and minority voters remain less likely to vote than their self-interest should dictate.  A piece in the New York Times looks at surging Democrat turn out in white suburban districts that may match or exceed Republican turn out levels.  Here are article highlights:
A wide range of evidence indicates that Democratic voters are poised to vote in numbers unseen in a midterm election in at least a decade.
Democrats have largely erased the turnout deficit that hobbled them during the Obama presidency, according to results from more than 50 New York Times Upshot/Siena College polls of the most competitive House battleground districts.
Democrats may even be poised to post higher turnout than Republicans, a rarity, in many relatively white suburban districts on Nov. 6.
But it’s not clear if this blue turnout surge will extend much further, particularly among young and nonwhite voters. Whether Democrats turn out broadly could make the difference between a fairly close fight for control of the House and sweeping Democratic gains of 40 or more seats.
Across the Times/Siena polls, Republicans have a six-point lead among voters who turned out in 2014. But Democrats counter with a 10-point advantage among voters who didn’t turn out in that election. Those voters are poised to represent more than one-third of the electorate, enough to essentially eliminate the Republican turnout advantage of the last decade.
A Democratic turnout surge would be consistent with the long history of midterm elections. When Democrats hold the presidency, Republicans generally have a big midterm turnout edge, based on voter file and survey data stretching back to the 1970s. And when Republicans hold the presidency, Democrats fight back to parity.
A similar pattern has played out in the special and general elections during the Trump presidency: Democratic turnout has surged over 2014 levels to essentially match that of Republicans.
Over the last two years, 60 percent of Democrats (defined by either party registration or primary vote history) voted compared with 58 percent of Republicans in the New Jersey and Virginia general elections, along with the special congressional elections in Kansas’ Fourth District, Pennsylvania’s 18th, Ohio’s 12th, Georgia’s Sixth and Arizona’s Eighth. In these same jurisdictions in 2014, Republicans had an eight-point edge, with 62 percent voting versus 54 percent of Democrats.
[T]urnout among young and nonwhite voters always trailing older and white turnout by a wide margin. That tends to cut against Democratic strengths. Across our polls, 58 percent of white registered voters say they’re “almost certain” to vote, compared with 50 percent of black registered voters and 43 percent of Hispanic voters. These figures are somewhat lower than in other surveys, in part because the Times/Siena surveys make a considerable effort to reach lower-turnout voters who respond to polls in low numbers. And just 38 percent of registered voters who are 18 to 34 years say they’re almost certain to vote, compared with 62 percent of those over age 65. It is entirely possible that these generational and racial turnout gaps will narrow over the election’s final weeks, as the campaigns work to mobilize irregular voters. There may also be individual races or states, like Georgia, where black voters turn out in large numbers. But there is no historical precedent for those gaps to close to the extent they do in a presidential election, at least not nationwide. Yet Democrats have still managed to fare extremely well in Trump-era special and general elections, in no small part because of a surge in well-educated voters. That’s what the Times/Siena polling shows as well. Over all, college-educated Americans represent 47 percent of likely voters in the districts we’ve polled, well above their 38 percent share of registered voters. And white voters without a degree — the president’s base — slip to 41 percent of the likely electorate, down from their 45 percent share of registered voters. The diverse districts in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, New Mexico and Virginia include more than one-third of the tossup districts. If Democratic turnout remains somewhat depressed, these districts could help the Republicans fend off a blue wave and at least keep them in striking distance of retaining their majority. Democrats, though, can regard the districts as offering plenty of opportunities heading into the final stretch. The Democrats there are saying they’re less likely to vote and are likelier to be undecided, reflecting low political engagement.
If Democrats can lure additional young and nonwhite voters off the sidelines and out of the undecided column, the party could be poised to break through in many of the districts where they’ve struggled the most to this point.
If you have Millennial or minority family members of friends, stress to them the importance of voting and of thwarting the GOP agenda that is decidedly against their best interests. 

Trump Celebrates Assault Of Reporter

Donald Trump has been an apologist for the brutal Saudi regime that by all evidence had Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered and dismembered. And, as the Washington Post is reporting, Trump supporters have mounted a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia. These efforts include highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago.  The goal?  To telegraph the message that his murder was justified.  It is all part and parcel with Trump’s contempt for the free press which is the last backstop to keeping dishonest politicians and authoritarians honest and accountable.  If you doubt this, look at Trump's praise for Congressman Greg Gianforte's physical assault on a reporter at a rally last night in Montana.  Just as frightening, the crowd cheered.   All of this is reminiscent of Hitler's war against the free press as he rose to power - as is the behavior of far too many Americans who ought to know better if they are the moral people they pretend to be.  Here are highlights from ABC News on Trump's foul behavior:
Donald Trump kicked off a western tour in Montana on Thursday ostensibly to support Matt Rosendale as he attempts to unseat Sen. Jon Tester, but it was his praise for Congressman Greg Gianforte's physical assault on a reporter that stole the show.
Gianforte is running for re-election as the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, and made national headlines during a special election for assaulting a reporter in a moment caught on audio tape.
"Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!" Trump said to cheers.  "I was in Rome with leaders when I heard about it, and I heard that he body-slammed a reporter," Trump said.  Trump said he was afraid Gianforte would lose after the moment, but then recalled, "Wait a moment, I know Montana."
Gianforte pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service for the incident. He apologized on the night of his election victory, saying, "When you make a mistake you have to own it."
For Trump, the Montana Senate race is personal. Trump came to Montana on the attack against Tester, a two-term Democratic senator, who is in a close race against Matt Rosendale, the current state auditor.
[Trump] The president has made it his mission to unseat Tester, whose office publically released information about alleged misconduct that led to White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson’s failed nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson denied allegations of misconduct and that he overprescribed medications, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration. Trump never forgot.
[Trump] The president spoke at length about immigration and falsely said that Democrats are supporting a caravan of immigrants traveling up from Central America. . . . “As you know, I’m willing to send the military to defend our Southern border if necessary all because of the illegal immigration onslaught brought by the Democrats because they refuse to acknowledge or to change the laws -- they like it,” Trump said. While Trump comfortably won the Big Sky state by 20 points, Tester, a moderate Democrat, maintains a slight lead in what has become one of the most expensive political contests in the small state’s history as millions of dollars have poured into Montana. It’s the president’s third trip to Montana, and Tester is only a few points ahead of Rosendale in recent polls.

Praising violence against journalists and playing on racial hatred - all perfectly fine with Trump supporters, including evangelical Christians who like the Pharisees of the Bible make a show of their feigned religiosity even as they betray Christ's message.  

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, October 18, 2018

More Thursday Male Beauty

Turkey: Audio Offers Gruesome Details of Jamal Khashoggi Killing

Evidence mounts that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman order Khashoggi murder.

Both the dictatorial Saudi regime and the Trump/Pence White House are engaged in contortions and lies as they try to disseminate misinformation about the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  What is most stunning is both the brazenness of the Saudis in thinking no one would notice their foul deed, and the extent to which the Trump/Pence White House is willing to try to distort the emerging facts about the murder and float ridiculous statements such as "rogue killers" might be responsible.  As if rogue killers could have gained access to the Saudi consulate without someone sending orders to allow their entry.  Now, Turkey is offering additional glimpses at the intelligence information they have and none of it is good for the Saudi and Trump/Pence disinformation campaign.  Here are highlights from the New York Times on new information released by Turkey:
ISTANBUL — Saudi agents were waiting when Jamal Khashoggi walked into their country’s consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago. Mr. Khashoggi was dead within minutes, beheaded, dismembered, his fingers severed, and within two hours the killers were gone, according to details from audio recordings described by a senior Turkish official on Wednesday.
The government of Turkey let out these and other leaks about the recordings on Wednesday, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Ankara, in an escalation of pressure on both Saudi Arabia and the United States for answers about Mr. Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi dissident journalist who lived in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post.
The new leaks, which were also splashed in lurid detail across a pro-government newspaper, came a day after Mr. Pompeo and the Trump administration had appeared to accept at face value the promises of the Saudi rulers to conduct their own investigation into Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance — regardless of Turkish assertions that senior figures in the royal court had ordered his killing.
[T]he brutality described in the leaks served as a reminder of why Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance has triggered an international backlash more severe than countless mass killings or rights violations.
 Trump, for his part, pushed back by questioning the Turkish claims, . . . “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does,” Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. . . .
American intelligence officials say they have growing circumstantial evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi . . .
Top Saudi officials have repeatedly denied any involvement in the disappearance — denials that they repeated to Mr. Pompeo when he visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, a friend of Mr. Khashoggi’s, has yet to publicly accuse the Saudis of abducting or killing him, or to make public any evidence to support such accusations.
But Turkish officials on Wednesday reiterated their conclusion that a team of 15 Saudi agents, some with ties to Crown Prince Mohammed, was waiting for Mr. Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate the moment he arrived, at about 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 2.
After he was shown into the office of the Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, the agents seized Mr. Khashoggi almost immediately and began to beat and torture him, eventually cutting off his fingers, the senior Turkish official said, describing the audio recordings.
A top Saudi doctor of forensics had been brought along for the dissection and disposal of the body — an addition to the team that Turkish officials have called evidence of premeditation. And as the agents cut off Mr. Khashoggi’s head and dismembered his body, the doctor had some advice, according to the senior Turkish official.
Listen to music, he told them, as he donned headphones himself. That was what he did to ease the tension when doing such work, the doctor explained, according to the official describing the contents of the audio recordings.
Although several Turkish officials have described the audio recordings or other evidence related to Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance in the consulate, all have declined to disclose how the material was obtained.
[P]eople knowledgeable about the Saudi plans said the royal court was preparing to acknowledge Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and punish what they would describe as a rogue operator in the Saudi intelligence service.
On Wednesday, however, the leaks resumed and escalated, a possible sign of Turkish frustration as the Saudis have delivered no such public explanation and the Trump administration has shown no rush to get one.
[T]he implication that the Saudi government orchestrated Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible death has created a stigma around Crown Prince Mohammed, who runs the country.
His plan for a financial conference in Riyadh next week has been upended by cancellations from high-profile Western financiers and media organizations. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, on Wednesday became the latest to scrap plans to attend.
Former United States intelligence officials have said they consider their Turkish counterparts both competent and credible when it comes to domestic intelligence gathering, and it would not be surprising if the Turks possessed audio surveillance from within the Saudi Consulate.

The corrupt and brutal rule of the Saudi monarchy needs to end.  What should/would replace it is an open question. The take away is that murder is only too acceptable to the Saudi rulers.  It is disturbing that it is seemingly also acceptable to the Trump/Pence regime.

How Hurricane Michael May Impact the Midterm Elections

Hurricane Michael not only devastated a significant portion of the Florida panhandle, it also may have damaged current GOP governor Rick Scott's election chances in the U.S. Senate race.  The areas devastated are a part of the red, GOP voting area of the state and Scott could lose tens of thousands of potential votes on November 6, 2018, as a consequence. In Georgia, the rural areas most damaged, in contrast, include some of the poorest, highest minority voting part of that state and, combined with the GOP vote suppression campaign of the GOP gubernatorial candidate could harm the Democrat candidate.  If Scott - who has been terrible on environmental issues and somewhat of a climate change denier, should lose the election due to a climate change enhanced hurricane, there would certainly be some sweet irony at play.  A piece in New York Magazine looks at the situation.  Here are highlights:

The speed with which Hurricane Michael swept through Florida’s panhandle and then through Georgia and the Carolinas last week made it hard to grasp how much damage it had inflicted. The death toll is 29 and still rising as bodies are discovered in the wreckage. Bay County, Florida, where Michael made landfall, has been devastated, with many residents displaced. Power is still out in eleven Florida counties, and cell phone service could take a long time to resume thanks to damaged fiber networks. Countless roads and streets have been torn up.
The impact on elections is hardly the fifth or sixth thing on survivors’ minds, but it cannot help but concern the politicians making decisions in the wake of the disaster, such as Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is in a tight Senate race with Bill Nelson, or Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, whose city lost power for a while and had to deal with tree-blocked roads and also many thousands of refugees from the Gulf Coast. Campaigning and polling (including the internal polls that operate as a campaign’s critical intel system) have stopped indefinitely in the Sunshine State. And there are other more concentrated political implications, as Politico notes:
The state’s Senate and gubernatorial races are virtually tied at the moment — and 8 of the 11 counties without power, an area affecting 135,000 customers, are Republican-performing counties…. [O]ne Republican familiar with the affected counties said the party is bracing for a net loss of 20,000 votes that Scott or Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor would otherwise receive.
Scott has the power to delay state elections if he finds that emergency conditions prevent a full and fair vote. He cannot, however, delay federal elections like the one in which he is currently engaged. A decision on that front needs to come quickly, since absentee voting by mail has already begun (Florida’s in-person early voting doesn’t begin until October 27). This is a state where 68 percent of ballots were cast before election day in 2016. Republicans might have an advantage in a delayed election in which lower-income voters are less likely to participate, but it would be quite a crap-shoot by Scott, particularly if it resulted in different federal and state election calendars.
In Georgia, the other state Michael hit with hurricane force, in-person early voting began this week. A complication there is that the supervisor of election infrastructure, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is the Republican nominee for governor, and is renowned for his voter suppression habits involving the low-income and minority citizens most likely to be affected by a natural disaster.
In both these states top elected officials are having to balance the need to appear compassionate and even-handed with their own narrow political interests. Challengers like Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum and his Georgia counterpart Stacey Abrams can only watch carefully and hope their storm-afflicted supporters don’t take a second hit from the Republicans running the elections.
It goes without saying that I am hoping that Scott and Kemp both lose their races.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Scott Taylor and House Republicans Lie About Their Votes on Health Care

Scott Taylor - lying about his health care votes
McMorris-Rodgers - lying about her health care votes

If one watches television in the Hampton Roads viewing area, it is hard to miss the Elaine Luria campaign ads taking Scott Taylor to task for his votes to make health care insurance less obtainable and less affordable for many residents of the Virginia 2nd Congressional District.  Taylor whines that the ads are lies and that he has voted to protect access to health care for average Americans.  Obviously, Taylor is hoping that voters will not take the time to research his voting record for themselves.  If they do so, they will find that Luria's ads are accurate.  Scott Taylor DID vote to gut the Affordable Health Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, just like he voted for the massive Trump/GOP tax cuts that gave massive tax breaks to the extremely wealthy and large corporations, threw a few crumbs to average taxpayers, and reduced a number of tax deductions for small businesses (meaning their taxes will go up). But Taylor is not alone on his lies about his votes on health care issues. As a piece in Politico notes as but one example of GOP dishonesty, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the No. 4 Republican in the House, is busy lying through her teeth about her votes that have made healthcare less attainable for many.  Here are article excerpts:
Cathy McMorris Rodgers got an earful about health care on a recent Friday afternoon knocking on doors in the suburban Balboa neighborhood of Spokane. McMorris Rodgers, the top-ranking Republican woman in the House facing the toughest reelection contest of her career, heard one resident complain his wife’s monthly insurance premiums have swelled to over $700 per month. Another agonized about affording long-term care for her elderly mother. Yet another worried whether Medicare would go bankrupt.
In past election cycles, the seven-term lawmaker might have had an easy talking point: Repeal and replace Obamacare. But like other Republicans who suddenly find themselves on the defensive on health care, she avoids mentioning her party’s long-standing pledge to eliminate the 2010 law.
The fact that she’s now steering clear of one of the GOP’s core tenets about repealing Obamacare shows just how treacherous the health care issue has become on the campaign trail. . . . she’s also the sole Washington state lawmaker to have voted to repeal Obamacare last year.
Now, she faces attack ads spotlighting that vote, not to mention lawn signs imploring voters to “repeal McMorris Rodgers, not our health care.” And while McMorris Rodgers talks about the importance of insurance protections for people like her son who have pre-existing conditions, she voted for a bill that health experts largely agree would have eroded those [pre-existing conditions] protections.
“She’s still defending that vote,” said her Democratic rival Lisa Brown, a former state Senate majority leader with health care bona fides, including helping to start a medical school in eastern Washington. “She’s still saying, ‘Well, people just didn’t understand our vision.’ It’s so much not in the best interests of this region and the whole state of Washington that I had to conclude she’s either really out of touch with the district … or has just decided to choose the party over the district.”
When pressed on health care on the campaign trail, she promises to ensure that vulnerable people, including those with pre-existing conditions, get the care they need, even though the Trump administration is asking the courts to throw out Obamacare’s insurance safeguards.
McMorris Rodgers’ district, which sprawls across the eastern part of the state and borders Canada and Oregon, carries historic symbolism that makes it an irresistible target for Democrats. When the Gingrich revolution led a Republican takeover of the House in 1994, the most prized scalp was that of former House Speaker Tom Foley, who held the seat for three decades and became the first sitting speaker to lose reelection since the Civil War.
Democrats believe Brown is the candidate who could turn the district blue again. She spent two decades in the state Legislature, rising to Senate majority leader before becoming chancellor of Washington State University’s Spokane campus. In both roles, she helped create a new medical school at the college, which enrolled its first class last year, cementing Spokane’s status as a regional health care hub.
On a recent afternoon, Brown touted her work establishing the medical school during a candidate forum on the Colville Indian Reservation, about two hours north of Spokane. “The health care issue is probably the most important issue I hear about as I travel through the district,” she told the audience.
Brown, like other Democratic candidates this cycle, frequently criticizes Republicans for threatening insurance protections for pre-existing conditions, which a recent POLITICO-Harvard poll found is an overwhelming concern for Democrats. The Trump administration’s decision to support a lawsuit from 20 conservative states that would gut Obamacare’s protections has been a political gift for Democrats and a messaging challenge for Republicans.
“By trying to dismantle it and not having anything to put in its place, clearly that’s in jeopardy,” Brown said. “It’s the distance between the rhetoric and the reality.”
Like McMorris Rodgers, Scott Taylor is at best talking out of both sides of his mouth, but to put it bluntly, is just plain lying.  Just as he's lying about protecting Social Security and Medicare, programs that the always despicable Mitch McConnell targeted for cuts just this week.  Don't trust Taylor. Vote him out on November 6, 2018. 

More Wednesday Male Beauty

Mueller Ready to Deliver Key Findings

With all of the other news occupying the media, the Russiagate investigation has fallen below the radar screen.  But that does not mean that Robert Mueller and his team have been idle.  As Bloomberg reports, it is expected that Mueller will unveil key findings shortly after the 2018 midterm elections.  The big question, of course, is to what lengths Donald Trump and Vichy Republicans will go to bury the report and keep it from the public.  Many predict that Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after the midterms and seek to appoint a replacement who will do Trump's bidding and close down the investigation which has seen numerous indictments and a number of guilty pleas from Trump campaign officials.  The investigation has proven itself to be anything but a "witch hunt" as screeched by Der Trumpenf├╝hrer and his 1930's German-like supporters. Here are highlights from Bloomberg on where the matter stands currently:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation, according to two U.S. officials.
Specifically, Mueller is close to rendering judgment on two of the most explosive aspects of his inquiry: whether there were clear incidents of collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and whether the president took any actions that constitute obstruction of justice, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be identified speaking about the investigation.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Mueller’s findings would be made public if he doesn’t secure unsealed indictments. The regulations governing Mueller’s probe stipulate that he can present his findings only to his boss, who is currently Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The regulations give a special counsel’s supervisor some discretion in deciding what is relayed to Congress and what is publicly released.
The question of timing is critical. Mueller’s work won’t be concluded ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of the House and end Trump’s one-party hold on Washington.
But this timeline also raises questions about the future of the probe itself. Trump has signaled he may replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the election, a move that could bring in a new boss for Mueller. Rosenstein also might resign or be fired by Trump after the election.
With three weeks to go before the midterm elections, it’s unlikely Mueller will take any overt action that could be turned into a campaign issue. Justice Department guidelines say prosecutors should avoid any major steps close to an election that could be seen as influencing the outcome.
That suggests the days and weeks immediately after the Nov. 6 election may be the most pivotal time since Mueller took over the Russia investigation almost a year and a half ago. So far, Mueller has secured more than two dozen indictments or guilty pleas.
Several matters could keep the probe going, such as another significant prosecution or new lines of inquiry. And because Mueller’s investigation has been proceeding quietly, out of the public eye, it’s possible there have been other major developments behind the scenes.
Mueller’s prosecutors also have met with Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. Cohen pleaded guilty in New York in August to tax evasion, bank fraud and violations of campaign finance laws. That separate investigation, headed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, is one of several New York probes involving the Trump Organization, and could ultimately prove to be more damaging to [Trump] the president than Mueller’s work.
Manafort is also key to understanding a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians who had promised damaging information concerning Clinton, the former official said.
Manafort appears to have good material to offer, said Samuel Buell, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Duke University School of Law. “He’s not going to get that deal unless he can help Mueller make a case against one or more people,” Buell said. Cooperators can’t expect leniency unless they provide "substantial assistance in the prosecution of others," Buell added, citing sentencing guidelines.
Even if Mueller’s probe stretched through 2019, the timeline wouldn’t be unprecedented. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr spent four years investigating President Bill Clinton before releasing his report on the Monica Lewinsky affair, which spun out of a probe into an Arkansas land deal known as Whitewater.
It took almost two years for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to indict Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for lying to investigators and obstruction of justice in October 2005 in the investigation into the public outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The Hypocrisy of "Pro-Life," Anti-Gay Christians/Republicans

One of the sound bites that one hears ad nausea from Virginia's homophobic right wing, "pro-life" Christians is their deep concern for "the children."  One hears similar bleating from their political prostitutes within the Republican Party who will go to any lengths not to offend their Christofascist masters.  In reality, both groups only care about some children - those in utero and, after they are born, only white, heterosexual children.  The lives and well being of all the rest evaporates at birth  and we see these "devout Christians" doing all in their power to marginalize and make life a living hell for LGBT children, youth and adults. In respect to poor minority children, they support every effort to slash the social safety net and deprive them of health care assess.  They reserve something special for LGBT youth, however: (i) constant propaganda that being LGBT is wrong and shameful, and (ii) so-called "conversion therapy" - which is condemned by every legitimate medical and mental health association in America - that constitutes nothing less than a form of psychological and sometimes actual physical torture aimed at making LGBT youth "straight."  Yet through all of this we hear the disingenuous, hypocrisy laden claim that these people care about "the children."  A piece in GayRVA looks at the continued Christofascist/GOP effort to subject LGBT youth to what constitutes torture.  Here are excerpts:
Good afternoon, pro-lifers of Greater Virginia! I hope you’re sitting, because we need to talk.
You claim to be about the children, about their lives and safety. Do you just mean while they’re in utero? Or do you still care about them once they’re out of the womb — but only if they’re straight?
Because if you really care about children — ALL children — the way you say you do, then we need to know where you stand on conversion therapy.
The battle to ban conversion therapy continues to rage on here in Virginia. For years, bills have been proposed within the General Assembly to ban it. Sadly, all have failed.
As recently as January of this year, Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) introduced a bill that would ban conversion therapy (defined within the bill as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity”) for minors in Virginia, and prohibit licensed therapists from performing it. Of course, the bill was sadly killed by Republicans on the Senate Education and Health Committee, 8-7.
Surovell explained to the Richmond Times-Dispatch that there is sufficient evidence proving the psychological and physical harm this plays on minors, including increased depression and suicide attempts. The American Psychological Association has outright stated that conversion therapy is harmful — a 2007 report on the practice by the APA stated that “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through sexual-orientation change efforts.”
But, hey. Why listen to people who are actual experts? Silly talk!
In an interview with NBC12, Ted Lewis, Head Director of Side By Side, talks about what can happen to your child in conversion therapy.
“There are a lot of different things that can happen to a young person,” said Lewis. “First and foremost, there is a lot of shame that comes with the person being told they are not okay who they are. And on top of that, the tools used to get them to try and convert can be electric shock, hypnotizing the person, lots of shaming, and sometimes even forced intercourse.”
So, again I have to ask. Why do you seriously just not care about our queer children?  Do you seriously care that little that our children are being subjected to legalized torture? You’re okay with them being electrocuted or shamed for just being alive?
[E]ven the state licensing boards are over it, and recently aimed to ban it themselves despite the General Assembly’s continuous attempts to shut down any bills.
Last week, the Department of Health Professions held a work group to discuss this. Potential regulations were discussed that would prohibit anyone licensed to practice in Virginia from using conversion therapy to intentionally alter any child’s sexual or gender identity.
Naturally, Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, argued against these regulations, reminding the group that the bill had been killed in the General Assembly. “I voted against this bill (voted yes to pass by indefinitely) in the Senate Education and Health committee because it violates free speech, religious liberty, and endangers children who should be able to receive helpful counsel,” she posted on Facebook after the meeting.
Sen. Chase. You are specifically who I am calling out in this article. You are the real danger to our children, and people who think like you. You are why our children are dying.
So, I’ll just ask you flat out. Why do you want our queer children to suffer so badly?
So I’m going to ask again, my dear pro-lifers, who swear until they are blue in the face and writhing on the floor that they care about nothing more than the lives of our children. Do you genuinely care about our children once they leave the womb, or do you only care as long as they are cisgender and straight?
Because if you do care about all of our children, and yes I mean every single one of them regardless their gender and or sexual identity, then you need to stop allowing conversion therapy to be foisted upon them. If you’ll stand for that, you’re not pro-life.
The next time you hear Victoria Cobb of The Family Foundation or Republicans like Sen. Amanda Chase bloviating about caring for children, know that it is all a lie.  Better yet, call them out on it and, in case of Virginia Republicans, vote them out of office in 2019.

McConnell Blames "Entitlements", Not Massive Trump/GOP Tax Cuts for Rising Deficits

One need not be a math whiz to do the math involved in comparing the amount of the massive Trump/GOP tax cuts to the very wealthy and huge corporations with the amount by which the federal deficit is soaring.  Yet, Mitch McConnell is ignoring this simple arithmetic exercise and is blaming the federal deficit on "entitlements" such as Social Security and Medicare into which American taxpayers have been paying funds their entire working lives.  In my own case, over the years, I have paid a very large sum into Social Security and Medicare, yet McConnell is depicting me and millions like me as greedy, irresponsible freeloaders looking for a free give away.  Meanwhile, McConnell and his wife have parlayed their political positions to become very wealthy and, in McConnell's case, he enjoys a platinum retirement package that relieves him of the financial concerns the rest of us have to deal with.  The man is despicable.  Give massive tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy and then demand cuts to programs for the poor, the middle class, and the elderly.  This from a man and political party that pretends to honor "Christian values."  A piece in Bloomberg looks at this foul batshitery.  Here are highlights:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News when asked about the rising deficits and debt. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”
McConnell’s remarks came a day after the Treasury Department said the U.S. budget deficit grew to $779 billion in Donald Trump’s first full fiscal year as president, the result of the GOP’s tax cuts, bipartisan spending increases and rising interest payments on the national debt. That’s a 77 percent increase from the $439 billion deficit in fiscal 2015, when McConnell became majority leader.
Shrinking those popular programs -- either by reducing benefits or raising the retirement age -- without a bipartisan deal would risk a political backlash in the next election. Trump promised during his campaign that he wouldn’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, even though his budget proposals have included trims to all three programs.
The Office of Management and Budget has projected a deficit in the coming year of $1.085 trillion despite a healthy economy. And the Congressional Budget Office has forecast a return to trillion-dollar deficits by fiscal 2020.
Republicans in December 2017 also passed a tax cut projected to add more than $1 trillion to the debt over a decade after leaders gave up on creating a plan that wouldn’t increase the debt under the Senate’s scoring rules.
At the time, McConnell told reporters, “I not only don’t think it will increase the deficit, I think it will be beyond revenue-neutral.” He added, “In other words, I think it will produce more than enough to fill that gap.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York responded Tuesday by saying McConnell and other Republicans “blew a $2 trillion hole in the federal deficit to fund a tax cut for the rich. To now suggest cutting earned middle-class programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid as the only fiscally responsible solution to solve the debt problem is nothing short of gaslighting."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement, “Under the GOP’s twisted agenda, we can afford tax cuts for billionaires, but not the benefits our seniors have earned.”

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Trump Continues to Defend Saudi Murder of Journalist

Trump with Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman.

Time and time again Donald Trump comes down on the side of autocrats and dictators that range from Vladimir Putin who has had people assassinated and poisoned to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un who has executed his own half-brother and runs slave labor camps. Now, Trump is seemingly siding with the Saudi Arabia rulers who ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Yesterday, Trump even floated the ludicrous claim that rogue killers might be responsible.  Never mind that (i) Khashoggi disappeared in the high security Saudi consulate in Turkey, and (ii) no one under the Saudi regime acts without approval of the ruling monarch or his lieutenants.  The New York Times reports as follows:
The Trump administration pushed back on Tuesday against rising condemnation of Saudi Arabia and showed support for its crown prince, who has been linked to the disappearance and possible killing of a leading dissident journalist inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
In his strongest language to date over the missing journalist, Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press: “Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
After days of leaks by Turkish officials that accused Saudi Arabia of sending a hit squad to kill Mr. Khashoggi and dismember him with a bone saw, this was the latest indication that the Trump administration would help the kingdom defuse an international crisis for its top Arab ally.
The administration’s moves have come as criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed has intensified — including by Republican members of Congress, business leaders and human rights officials — over Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent murder.
The reported killing has created a bipartisan uproar in Congress, shaking the foundations of the close American-Saudi relationship with calls for suspension of military sales punctuated by particularly strong rebukes of Crown Prince Mohammed, who basically rules the kingdom for his father.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and formerly a strong advocate of Saudi Arabia, has been among the most outspoken critics of the crown prince over the Khashoggi mystery, even before more facts are known.  
Two other pieces in the New York Times show the ridiculous nature of Trump's efforts to defend the murderous Saudi regime.  The first shows that the detail that arrived in Istanbul and apparently murdered Khashoggi have close ties to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is virtually ruling the kingdom.  Here are excerpts:
One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston and the United Nations.
Three others are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail.
A fifth is a forensic doctor who holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment, a figure of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority.
That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation.
How much blame for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance or death settles on the 33-year-old crown prince has become a decisive factor in his standing in the eyes of the West and within the royal family.
[I]n the last few days, as major American businesses have withdrawn from a marquee investment conference in Riyadh and members of Congress have stepped up called for sanctions, the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia appear to have been searching for a face-saving way out.
The royal court was expected to acknowledge that Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, and to blame an intelligence agent for botching an operation to interrogate Mr. Khashoggi that ended up killing him.
President Trump floated the possibility on Monday that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers.”  But such explanations would run up against a host of hard-to-explain obstacles.
The suspects’ positions in the Saudi government and their links to the crown prince could make it more difficult to absolve him of responsibility. The New York Times has confirmed independently that at least nine of the 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries.
Turkish officials have said they possess evidence that the 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on Oct. 2, assassinated Mr. Khashoggi, dismembered his body with a bone saw they had brought for the purpose, and flew out the same day. Records show that two private jets chartered by a Saudi company with close ties to the Saudi crown prince and Interior Ministry arrived and left Istanbul on the day of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Turkish officials said Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. That timeline would not have allowed much time for an interrogation to go awry.
 A Times main page editorial notes how the lies floated by the Saudi monarchy and Trump are rapidly collapsing.  Here are highlights:
If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Riyadh to read the Riot Act to Saudi rulers over the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, he hid it well behind cheery smiles and professions of amity. But then outrage has been conspicuously absent from the Trump administration in the two weeks since Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, never to be seen again.
The Saudis have reportedly been searching for a cover story for the disappearance of the gadfly Saudi journalist, who had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States and writing columns for The Washington Post. Denial is no longer an option — Turkey appears to have pretty solid evidence that Mr. Khashoggi was killed by thugs flown in from Saudi Arabia — so the word in Washington is that the Saudis will try to claim an attempted kidnapping or interrogation gone bad.
On Monday, when Turkey had already leaked considerable evidence of a hit, Mr. Trump was behaving like a royal apologist.
Some of Mr. Trump’s more serious Republican supporters have taken a far less forgiving stance toward Saudi Arabia and its heir apparent. “This M.B.S. figure to me is toxic,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, who is normally a close ally of the president, using the crown prince’s nickname. “This guy has got to go.”
[T]he White House should have been first to suspend participation in a major investment conference in Riyadh next week until the Saudis provided a credible account of Mr. Khashoggi’s fate, rather than leaving it to American media organizations and business executives to take the lead in pulling out.
If Saudi Arabia is allowed to get away with some lame story about the apparent murder of Mr. Khashoggi, the world’s growing gang of autocrats will feel even less constraint. There are plenty of measures at Mr. Trump’s disposal that would send the right message, from personal sanctions against those behind the Khashoggi operation to a suspension of arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia. Mr. Trump’s aides, members of Congress and allied leaders need to insist that he take the lead in demanding that Saudi Arabia acknowledge what really happened, and why it’s terribly wrong.
One is certainly left wondering why Trump is so strenuously playing apologist for the Saudi dictators.  What are the Saudis holding over him?   Or does Trump merely support the murder of journalist who inconveniently report the truth?   Something does not add up.